Posted on March 22, 2017 7:53 am
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Categories: Political

Making Colombians Trust Again: The Importance of Trust and Confidence-building Measures in the Post-agreement Phase

If you’ve lived in Colombia long enough, you will have heard locals say that you can’t trust anyone here and that you need to be cautious (no des papaya!) – that if you want things done right you have to do them yourself. And if for some reason you can’t do them yourself, at least make sure you ask someone trustworthy or de confianza, as Colombians like to say.

This attitude is hardly surprising in a country that has lived through decades of (organised) crime, violence and corruption scandals.

It’s likely that the intuitive and notorious lack of trust towards other people and towards the political system is also one of the main reasons the peace agreement with the FARC was rejected last year. And even though the peace deal was saved and is currently being implemented, it doesn’t change the fact that a large part of the population continues to distrust the FARC (and its future legal political party for that matter). Not only that, but they also distrust the government and any of the other state institutions in charge of guaranteeing the fulfillment of what has been agreed to in Havana.

The issue of trust or distrust is extremely relevant, especially now that Colombia has entered its post-agreement phase. Trust means establishing and reconstructing relations with the “other,” particularly in a deeply fractured society where people assume, almost by default, that this “other” may hurt, rob or deceive you in some way. Overcoming this will be essential for achieving the main objective of any peace process: reconciliation.

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At the same time, the peace process cannot and will not be the whole answer. The agreement signed in Havana simply won’t solve many of the structural problems affecting the country. Building trust with people also implies being realistic with them about what the agreement can and cannot achieve, and which problems will likely persist if other, additional reforms aren’t put into practice.

State institutions such as the Procuraduría and the Fiscalía, as well as the military, need to be democratised and depoliticised; a reform of the public forces that is more in line with the logic of peace is also worth discussing. Ultimately, if people don’t feel that these institutions represent them, distrust is likely to continue even if the peace process goes as planned. Veronika Hoelker and Julia Lledín. The Bogotá Post